How the Gators handle this loss will determine who they are as a team
GAINESVILLE, Fla.-- Florida had a reality check on Saturday.
"Lot of guys thought they were better than what they were and we just gotta come back and work harder," running back Jordan Scarlett after the 38-17 loss to Missouri.
Gators head coach Dan Mullen did not mince words in his post game presser. Mullen started his press conference calm, however, the coach had a 'mic drop' moment, questioning if his team was filled with enough competitors to bounce back from two straight losses.
"They keep score. Someone wins and someone loses," Mullen said. "I don't care what we're doing. If you want to thumb wrestle me right now I'm going to kick your ass. You want to go run stadiums? I'll kick your ass. If you're going to keep score and someone's going to win and someone's going to lose, I want to beat your ass. If you don’t have that attitude in the locker room we gotta problem. I mean what are you doing?"
After starting 6-1, it seemed like the team was on cloud nine. Florida was back in the national conversation and there was even talk of an SEC Championship run or even a College Football Playoff run if certain results fell into place.
The hype was there and it seemed like the Gators bought into it a bit too early.
"I think a lot of guys thought Missouri was going to be just an easy win," wide receiver Josh Hammond said. "People kind of took that approach throughout the week and kind of, you know, were kinda like casual about things. It definitely came and bit us."
"That’s a different reality check for guys," Mullen said. "We had some success, we won some tough games, and all of a sudden you start patting yourself on the back and thinking ‘Boy, we might have some answers we can go home to.' Those games that we’ve won, we played all three phases as a team. Played well, executed well, played hard, desperate on every single play. We didn’t win on just because we’re more talented. We won because we played as a team, and that’s a little bit of a reality check that we had to get, make sure everybody understands."
Mullen was brought into the program to change the culture around the program. It's safe to say it remains a work in progress.
Old habits are tough to break.
"I think our practice habits need to change," cornerback CJ Henderson said. "We have some practice habits from last year that we brought into this year and we need to change that. We have to put this game past us and look forward with a positive attitude and come back next week ready to play."
The Gators also need to find some vocal leaders on the field. Florida tight end RJ Raymond is one that feels it's time to change the approach.
"I might come off wrong on this, but it's not time to make friends," Raymond said. "It's not time for me to be a leader as far as 'I'm going to do everything right and hopefully everybody comes with me.' I've got two games left, and I mentioned some of this in the locker room. I've got two games left in the Swamp and I've given my all for this program. At this point it's not time for me to sit back and kind of hope everybody comes."
Florida was slapped, punched and kicked in the mouth. It was not a good look for Florida this weekend. If there was ever a moment to step up now would be it.
"Obviously what we were doing before wasn't working as a team so everyone needs to hold each other accountable and we need to play better, practice better," said Scarlett.
"At the end of the day it's time to win a football game," Raymond said. "It's time to play for pride, play for this Gator logo. You've just got to push everybody and bring everybody up to that standard. If there's something not to that standard or better that we know we've got to play to, that's not good enough. That's unacceptable. We've all got to bring everybody with us. If it's not up to those standards, it's not good enough. It's unacceptable."
"When things get tough, how are we? This is when you gotta buckle down and the toughness comes through," added Mullen. "We got three more games to go play here in the regular season, and then we get a bowl game. And we get to go see what we’re all about as a team and what this team is made of and where the program is at a little bit, with all of us pushing and moving forward. There is still an awful lot to play for as the season goes on.
" Most important, everybody in that locker room, hopefully, gotta play for each other, play for the Gators, play for our team. I’d be really disappointed if people don't want to play for themselves," added Mullen. "Either you're a competitor or you’re not.That’s all I need. Right? That is all I need. Certainly I hope that rubs off and that’s the attitude of every single guy in the locker room.”